Shaping the Internet's Future

APAC Policy Survey 2019: Consolidation in the Internet Economy

The Internet is changing. Consolidation in the Internet economy, the topic of the Global Internet Report 2019, might be the source of ongoing shifts in its underlying infrastructure and the way users engage, among many other things.

Clearly, the growing presence of big Internet platforms can benefit the user by offering seamless Internet experiences, but it could also harm innovation, competition, and the Internet’s broader architecture, says the report, which marks the start of the Internet Society’s efforts to examine this issue.

The Internet in Asia-Pacific is no exception. A few corporations – including Facebook and Tencent in social networking, Google and Baidu in search, and Amazon and Alibaba in online shopping – dominate large parts of the Internet, benefitting people while raising similar questions about what it means for the Internet’s fundamental properties.

This year’s Survey on Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific, released today, helps deepen our understanding of the role that corporations play in shaping Internet use and user experience in the region and how they may impact future innovation on the Internet.

More than 1,300 people from 39 economies in the region took our online survey when we opened it to the public in July.

The results show a big majority of Internet users in APAC are heavy users of the products of companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet (Google), and that almost all respondents depend in some way on their offerings for most of their online activities.

Almost half of the respondents say it will be either difficult or very difficult to find replacements for those products.

The respondents are concerned about security. They ranked it as their top concern when they choose an online service, followed by how easy it is to use and if it is free of charge.

In general, they have more trust in big companies than small ones. Yet, they expect future innovations on the Internet to come from not only big companies, but also new and emerging firms.

The survey shows that digital consolidation involves a complex set of issues. It helps inform us as we continue to delve deep into the topic of consolidation from different perspectives.

Thank you to many of you who took part in the survey. Please continue to share your views with us on our website or social media.

Read the full report and look back at past surveys: 201420152016, 2017, and 2018.

Internet of Things (IoT)

2018 Survey on Policy in Asia-Pacific: We Need to Do Something About IoT Security

Earlier this year, we asked Internet users across Asia-Pacific just how secure they thought their smart gadgets were. The findings, gathered from 950 respondents in 22 economies, yielded some interesting insights. Over half of those polled lack confidence that IoT devices are sufficiently secure. A similar percentage feel that they do not have enough information on the security of their device.

As connected devices move into our personal spaces – homes, offices and our bodies – amassing more and more data about us and our activities at a dizzying pace, our report, published last week, highlights how much work still needs to be done to build trust in the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.

Asia-Pacific is undoubtedly a major area of growth for the IoT industry, with countries like China and India rapidly becoming some of the biggest markets for consumer IoT devices. We are also a formidable producer, with established brands like Xiaomi and Samsung churning out wearables, smart appliances, and virtual assistants, and numerous startups joining the fray.

Indeed, the report found that a substantial number of respondents already own IoT devices, with a further 73% planning to purchase an IoT device in the next 12 months. But this enthusiasm can’t conceal the fact that most IoT devices land on our shelves without adequate security and privacy safeguards, making them vulnerable to information leaks and attacks by cybercriminals. Incidents like the Mirai botnet in 2016, which essentially exploited unsecure CCTVs whose default passwords hadn’t been changed, gave us a preview of things to come. Connected toys listening in on conversations at home, or smart speakers that can make online purchases without the owner’s knowledge, were just some of the security flaws exposed by researchers this year.

And consumers are waking up to these risks: More than two-thirds of survey participants worry about hackers gaining access or taking control of their devices and personal information. A similar percentage are concerned about personal data leaks and being monitored without their knowledge or consent.

Security certainly is a shared responsibility – users also need to take steps to keep their devices secure. But as we found in the survey, there are currently not enough tools available for them to do this. For instance, over 70% of respondents would like the option to delete the data collected by the device, and to know more about how it is used and who it is shared with, overall demanding more control over their personal information.

This task falls primarily on device manufacturers and IoT service providers. Significantly, nine in ten respondents would like for security and privacy protections to come as standard across all IoT devices, with two-in-three respondents citing this as a key factor that would influence their purchasing decision.

For governments, one of the ways to steer industry in the right direction is to promote the use of trustmarks – visible indicators to signal that a product abides by a set of security standards. This is already a widespread practice in the food sector (e.g., fair trade) and among electronics and equipment suppliers (e.g., energy star). Tellingly, more than 90% of respondents stated that they are likely to purchase IoT devices that have a security guarantee (through a trustmark or certification label).

The connected environment promises convenience, efficiency, and unimaginable insight, and we are only just skimming the surface of its potential. Unsurprisingly, IoT is set to reach an important milestone next year, with consumer IoT devices exceeding the global population for the first time. It is a remarkable growth – one that is surpassed only by the threats that are increasingly tailored to exploit its weaknesses.

The connected future is here. Let’s make sure it’s secure. #GetIoTSmart

Building Trust Improving Technical Security Privacy

Cybersecurity is the Top Internet Policy Concern in the Asia-Pacific Region

This month at the Asia-Pacific Regional IGF in Bangkok we will release the fourth annual Internet Society Survey Report on Internet Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific.

Findings from this year’s report show that cybersecurity, access, data protection, connectivity and privacy are the top five concerns for Internet users. These issues have more or less remained constant since 2014, however, not surprisingly this year cybersecurity has become the top issue.

Other issues that respondents expressed concern for relate to fake news, increasing digital surveillance that violates privacy rights, and more frequent instances of censorship and site-blocking that impact freedom of expression.

The survey polled more than 2,000 Internet users from across the Asia-Pacific region on their attitudes towards current Internet policy issues. This year, the survey took an in-depth look at how the region perceives and deals with personal information online, and the extent to which various entities are trusted to protect people’s personal information and privacy rights.

Generally, the results are rather discouraging. The findings indicate the current level of trust in the Internet is low. Users are concerned that their personal information is not protected online, and this in turn translates to their hesitance in using online services. A large proportion of respondents (60%) also indicated they do not have the knowledge and tools to protect their privacy online. These have important implications on the rollout and use of not only commercial, but also public and social services online.

At the same time, users want to be informed, and desire to have a certain level of control over the collection and use of their personal information. Public and private organisations that collect and share user information need to take this into account when formulating or updating privacy frameworks. This includes the development of systems and tools that make it easier for users to understand the terms of service, and empower users to manage their privacy preferences.

Interestingly, users recognise that the protection of personal information online is a shared responsibility – and not just the owner’s own responsibility. Both the public and private sectors, and especially the platforms through which users transact financially online, not only need to build robust and secure networks and systems, but also develop tools to equip users with the knowledge and skills to use these services safely online. This will improve their confidence in using online services, and their trust in the overall Internet ecosystem.

Read the full report here. Findings from past surveys are available here: 2014, 2015, 2016.

Read the Online Trust Audit, which includes checklist of best practices and resources.

Growing the Internet Improving Technical Security Internet Governance Privacy

Cybersecurity and Access – Top Two Policy Concerns in Asia-Pacific

Findings from the recently released third annual Internet Society Survey on Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific indicate that Internet access and cybersecurity are the top two concerns for survey respondents. Cybersecurity, in particular, was seen as an area that needs most urgent attention by policymakers.

The survey polled almost 2,000 end-users from across the Asia-Pacific region on their attitudes towards current Internet policy issues.

One encouraging indication from the survey results is that connectivity looks to be improving significantly in the region – 70% stated that they had experienced better Internet speed and 55% saw a drop in the cost of their Internet subscription.

However, improved Internet access also means a greater need to maintain trust in the Internet and all that it enables. The elements of trust online are multi-faceted and these were reflected in the survey’s findings.  A large proportion of the respondents cited data protection as crucial for building confidence in the Internet.  More than half also felt that consumer protection, transparency, and the ability to communicate confidentially were more important than content, service, technology and applications.

Access and Trust issues are focus areas for the Internet Society, and the survey results reinforce the importance of both these issues. Bringing the unconnected online and ensuring the Internet remains a trusted medium for users are key for the Internet’s continued success.

Read the full Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Policy Survey 2016 report here

Growing the Internet Improving Technical Security Internet Governance Public Policy

Net users in APAC want to participate in Internet policymaking

Governments in Asia-Pacific have made progress in opening up avenues for public input, but a new study by the Asia-Pacific Bureau suggests that stakeholders want more. The 2015 Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Survey, which collected the views of 3,302 Internet users from different sectors across the region, found that 87% of respondents would like their government to provide greater opportunities for them to be involved in Internet policymaking.

The same number stated that they care about Internet affairs in their own country, but only 28% rated themselves as having good or very good understanding of Internet policymaking processes. Some 90% agreed that policymakers also need a better understanding of Internet issues, with a further 82%  indicating that they were not fully satisfied with their government’s policies regarding the Internet. Such views are valuable as the Internet’s growing applicability to everyday life is expected to result in more states seeking to implement rules and regulations relating to cyberspace.

Governments in particular are seen to have a crucial role in enabling Internet access: some 99% of respondents thought that universal broadband access policies are integral in expanding Internet connectivity to under-served populations; and more than three-fourths believed that states should invest in developing Internet infrastructure, improving Internet speeds and making the Internet more affordable.

The report, released yesterday, found that connectivity continues to be the topmost concern among survey participants, with data protection, e-commerce, over-the-top services and cloud computing also ranking high on users’ radar. These priorities reflect the swiftly maturing online environment in Asia-Pacific. While many developing countries continue to grapple with slow and expensive Internet access, several emerging ones, including India and Indonesia, are also experiencing double-digit growth in Internet penetration. More developed economies like Japan, South Korea and Australia have at least three quarters of their population online, giving rise to policy concerns that are more often associated with increasing Internet ubiquity and utility.

The survey also took a closer look at cybersecurity, an area of growing concern in the region. The issue remains among the top 10 policy topics of interest among respondents, but with some caveats. Notably, 70% of survey participants felt that cybersecurity and civil liberties are equally important. And while 95% felt that government policies for cybersecurity are necessary, an equal number thought that online privacy protection should likewise be guaranteed by national law.

Download the full 2015 Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Survey report here.

Growing the Internet Identity Improving Technical Security Public Policy

Internet Access, Security Top Policy Concerns for South Asia

Policies on Internet connectivity and cybersecurity have emerged as issues of immediate concern in a survey of 855 Internet Society members across South Asia, topping other topical Internet-related themes in the sub-region. The study, part of a wider Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Survey conducted by the Internet Society’s Asia Pacific Bureau, yielded key insights on user attitudes towards local Internet policy issues just as several countries in South Asia mull provisions to increase Internet connection speeds and strengthen domestic cyberdefense strategies.

The survey report shows that close to two-thirds of respondents have been closely monitoring discussions around Internet connectivity in their own countries. Of particular concern was the availability and affordability of high-speed broadband access, which respondents viewed as crucial to increasing the economic and social benefits of the Internet for South Asia. Indeed, several respondents referred to quality of service assurances, amidst the sluggishness of Internet speed in the sub-region, as a possible focus area for regulators. More recently, Akamai’s latest “State of the Internet” quarterly report ranked India, the biggest economy in South Asia, as having the slowest average Internet connection speed, at 1.7Mbps, in Asia-Pacific, less than half the global average of 3.9Mbps.

Survey participants considered the persisting urban-rural digital divide, as well as the lack of multi-lingual, localised content as critical issues that must be addressed to further increase Internet uptake in South Asia.  Measures to help expand connectivity to more remote villages are crucial as 69% of the sub-region’s 1.64 billion people reside in rural areas.  Internet penetration in South Asia has likewise lagged behind the rest of Asia-Pacific—only 12% of its population currently have access to the Internet, almost three times lower than the global average of 35%.

Respondents likewise regarded cybersecurity, particularly in the realms of privacy, data protection and cybercrime, as an equally important policy theme for the sub-region. Amidst efforts by several South Asian countries to beef up their surveillance programmes, the survey found that many respondents strongly oppose pervasive monitoring by government. But while they disapproved of Internet censorship, survey participants also called for culturally sensitive content, voicing reservations about the spread of hate or extremist speech, as well as the proliferation of violent or sexually explicit images online.

There was a broad recognition of the need to raise user awareness of the risks associated with online activities, and of ways by which users can protect themselves from cyber threats. Rather than blanket institutional controls, however, respondents advocated for consumer rights policies that would prompt service providers to make available clear and simplified information on safe Internet usage and responsible online behaviour.

View the full Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Survey Report.

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